By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Other | Issue: December 2014
Choices for Life staff members (front row) Phyllis Bowen, Suzanne Cunningham, Beverly Litterell, (back row) Cynthia Stubblefield, Lisa Bohbrink, Keith Griffin and Kimberly Cardwell help children in therapeutic foster care become successful adults.
Many area children will not feel the love of a family this Christmas morning. They may have a tree to share with others just like them, and they will have food and safe shelter, but they won’t have the special support and care they need.
Every day, Phyllis Bowen, supervisor/therapist, Choices for Life Foster Care, gets calls from DHS representatives who are desperately seeking help for special children with special needs. “Unfortunately,” says Phyllis, “I have to turn them down. We just don’t have enough foster homes.”
A Christmas wish for Phyllis, the children in need, and the many counselors and professionals who serve them is that more people will try to open their homes to these kids.
It is not an easy task. Every child that Choices for Life places in a home has obstacles to overcome. Some have been victims of neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, parental incarceration, abandonment and more. They come from across all socio-economic classes. The one thing they have in common is that they do not function like other children their age.
Phyllis explains that a big mistake that many new applicants make is to treat the child like their own children. These kids have had life experiences that other children have not. Their emotions are bruised. They feel isolated. For some kids, doing well in school is the farthest thing from their minds.
Foster parents with good hearts may not understand this at first. But in the eight weeks of training to become certified, they will. Beverly Litterell, statewide training and recruiter supervisor, provides some of the best parent training available. She prepares the parents or single adults for behaviors they may never have expected. A one-day seminar covers Behavior Crisis Management Training. She also lets parents know that help is just a phone call away. A counselor or therapist is available to answer the phone 24/7. A counselor also visits each home every week.
The challenge is big, but so are the rewards. Phyllis recalls several adoptions within foster families that have occurred this year.
It is hard to place any child in therapeutic foster care, but teens have the hardest time. When they are placed, they are taught independent living skills. They learn how to manage money and take driver’s education. They are enlightened to the possibilities of higher education and a career. Phyllis says several have expressed interest in working professionally with foster kids.
There are other ways to help if fostering is not possible. Gift certificates are always needed for the foster families and the kids. Pizza, shopping sprees, movies and outings are greatly appreciated. Tickets to the zoo or aquarium, which are not always within budgets, are extra special. This month, Choices for Life will treat approximately 50 children and their foster families to a skating party and presents from Santa.
For more information, contact
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.